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Noisy Truth

This note was originally published at 8am on October 15, 2012 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“We think we want information, when we really want knowledge.”

-Nate Silver

 

Within the context of the always-on tweeter-net, I thought that was a really thoughtful quote from the introduction to Nate Silver’s new book, The Signal and The Noise. I’ll be reviewing his framework for forecasting in the coming weeks.

 

Silver says the “signal is the truth” and “the noise is what distracts us from the truth” (page 17). Without having read the bulk of the book yet, I can already assure you that doesn’t hold when attempting to proactively predict Risk Ranges in real-time markets.

 

Our most immediate-term risk management duration (TRADE) is, by definition, noisy. Whereas our intermediate and long-term (TREND and TAIL) work can often be mistaken as truth when the noise isn’t confusing our confirmation biases.

 

Back to the Global Macro Grind

 

Whether we like hearing it or not, we all have confirmation biases. That’s because we are human. At a bare minimum, I think Nate Silver and I agree on that. Thinking, Fast and Slow’s Daniel Kahneman would too.

 

Our risk management day involves grinding quantitative economic realities (data) with behavioral finance (timing). In order to make a probability-weighted forecast (taking a long or short position) we always look back, across durations, before looking ahead.

 

For us, the signal (and the noise) is real-time market prices – here’s what they did last week, across asset classes:

  1. US Dollar Index =up +0.4%, closing up for the 3rd week in the last 4 at $79.65 (bullish on both TRADE and TAIL durations)
  2. EUR/USD = down -0.7%, looking like the upside down of the USD Index (bearish on both TRADE and TAIL durations)
  3. CRB Commodities Index = down -0.3% (down -4.7% from the Bernanke Top, printing to Infinity & Beyond)
  4. Oil (blended Brent and WTIC) = up +2% (WTIC down -4.3% from the Bernanke Top)
  5. Gold = down -1.4%, as it continues to make a series of lower long-term highs (vs the 2011 Bernanke Bubble top)
  6. Copper = down -2.2% (bearish on both TRADE and TAIL durations)
  7. SP500 = down -2.2% (bearish TRADE resistance = 1448; bullish TREND support = 1419)
  8. Nasdaq = down -2.9% (bearish TRADE resistance = 3129; bullish TREND support = 3022)
  9. US Equity Volatility (VIX) = up +12.6% (bullish on both TRADE and TAIL durations)
  10. US 10yr Treasury Bond Yield = down -5% to 1.66% (bearish on both TRADE and TAIL durations)

In other words, there were plenty of signals and noises, across durations, in last week’s closing prices. There is also a confirmation bias in attempting to describe what happened because I, unlike Keynesian policy makers, believe that central planners are the primary causal factor in driving currency values and market correlations.

 

In the private sector, it’s ok to have a confirmation bias – you just have to be right more than you are wrong. If you’re wrong more than you are right, it’s ok - just go work for the government.

 

What do you do when you are wrong? For us, it’s pretty simple – we hold ourselves accountable to the mistake, try to learn from it, and grow. What other people do when they face adversity is up to them.

 

With the SP500 not having an up day in the last 6, what is the truth? Do growth and #EarningsSlowing matter? Or did it from the price where a lot of people thought Bernanke’s money printing meant the “fundamentals don’t matter”?

 

What are the fundamentals?

  1. US GDP Growth of 1.26% in Q2 2012, or consensus expectations of +3-4% growth 6 months ago?
  2. Global GDP Growth of 1.3% (Singapore just reported that for Q3 2012) or +3% as far as the excel model can see?
  3. The worst preannouncement ratio (4:1) of #EarningsSlowing misses since Q3 of 2001, or stocks are “cheap”?
  4. US Technology Sector (XLK) down -3.5% in the last month, or what it’s “up YTD”?
  5. US Financials Sector (XLF) down -1.6% last week on JPM/WFC earnings, or what they are “up YTD”?
  6. Chinese inflation down sequentially to +1.9% (SEP) or India wholesale inflation up sequentially to +7.8% (SEP)?

Some might say all of this doesn’t matter, and all you need to do is know where a 1-factor/1-duration simple moving average model tells you where the market is and everything is either fine. Some might say that all of it matters and is measurable. That’s closer to the Noisy Truth.

 

Our signals say all this noise adds up to us having 12 LONGS and 9 SHORTS for this morning’s US stock market open. Provided that the SP500 doesn’t close > 1448, we’ll likely sell on green bounces, and buy on red corrections closer to 1419.

 

Our immediate-term risk ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, EUR/USD, UST 10yr Yield, and the SP500 are now $1748-1774, $112.68-115.08, $79.34-80.05, $1.28-1.30, 1.61-1.71%, and 1419-1445, respectively.

 

Best of luck out there this week,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Noisy Truth - Chart of the Day

 

Noisy Truth - Virtual Portfolio



Sandy Bayes

“The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.”

-Faye Wattleton

 

US markets are closed today, but rest of world is still open for risk to be managed. US Equity futures are down 8 as the US Dollar (+0.16%) continues on its strengthening path toward popping Bernanke’s Bubble (Commodities).

 

Like Sandy’s progression, the global growth and earnings slowdown is measurable. The closer it gets to you, the more obvious its risk management realities become. Try it at home. Buy a stock in front of a guide down.

 

Nate Silver does a great job simplifying this Bayesian process of managing risk through probability theory on page 243 of The Signal And The Noise: “we learn about it through approximation, getting closer and closer to the truth as we gather more evidence.”

 

Back to the Global Macro Grind

 

Bayes’ Theorum is by no means a silver bullet. It won’t tell you how many trees Sandy will knock down in your yard inasmuch as it won’t tell you the precise day when China will “bottom.” It’s simply a framework that allows us to think flexibly.

 

This is the primary reason why our risk management style is so different than most that you read. Any buy-side fund worth their fees gets this. The sell-side and media at large does not. Like monitoring a hurricane, we probability-weight every decision based on what real-time price, volume, and volatility information we receive (every 90 minutes).

 

Ninety minutes? No, that doesn’t make me “short-term” – that just makes me less likely to make mistakes within the context of the intermediate to long-term cycles that we have already studied. Watch the storm. Risk Happens Fast.

 

Across our core risk management durations (TRADE, TREND, and TAIL), here’s what I saw last week:

  1. US Dollar Index = up +0.6% and up for the 4th week in the last 6 (bullish TRADE and TAIL)
  2. EUR/USD = down -0.76%, and down for the 4th week in the last 6 (bearish TRADE and TAIL)
  3. US Treasury Yield (10yr) = down 1 basis pt to 1.75% (bearish TAIL, which is long-term bullish for Bonds)
  4. CRB Commodities Index = down another -2.7% (down -7.8% since Bernanke’s Top, SEP 14, 2012)
  5. Oil (WTIC) = down another -4.4% to $86.28/barrel in a Bearish Formation (bearish TRADE, TREND, and TAIL)
  6. Gold = down another -0.7% (bearish TRADE and TAIL)
  7. Copper = down another -2.1% (Bearish Formation, down -10% from its #GrowthSlowing high Q112)
  8. SP500 = down -1.5% last wk closing below both TRADE (1441) and TREND (1419) resistance
  9. Russell2000 = down -1.0% last wk closing below both TRADE (831) and TREND (846) resistance
  10. US Equity Volatility (VIX) = +4.3% last wk closing above both TRADE (16.29) and TREND (15.54) support
  11. Russian Stocks (RTSI Index) = down -3.7% leading European Equity decliners last wk (-18.5% since March)
  12. Chinese Stocks (Shanghai Composite) = down -2.9% remain in a Bearish Formation (TRADE, TREND, and TAIL) 

That last point (China) is a good one to qualify. Two weeks ago I heard plenty a pundit say “China has bottomed” without any process or conditional probability backing up their perma-bull proclamation of faith. Bottoms aren’t bottoms, until they bottom.

 

As a general rule, that’s why I like to teach the very basic risk management concept that tops and bottoms are processes, not points. To probability-weight them, you need to have a disciplined process to grind out evidence that risk is actually occurring.

 

Old Wall generally thinks about this bass ackwards. They call it “risk on” or  “risk off”, after the risk occurs. As a practitioner, you can safely assume that risk is never “on” or “off” – instead, it’s always moving. So embrace its uncertainty.

 

Speaking of which, I need to cut this Early Look short to get gas all over my hands and prime my generator. I’d hate to have a risk “on” moment in front of my kids where I didn’t proactively prepare for what’s staring me in the face.

 

Our immediate-term risk ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, EUR/USD, UST 10yr Yield, Shanghai Composite, and the SP500 are now $1, $106.08-110.66, $79.67-80.35, $1.28-1.30, 1.71-1.81%, 2048-2098, and 1, respectively.

 

Best of luck out there today – stay safe,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Sandy Bayes - Chart of the Day

 

Sandy Bayes - Virtual Portfolio


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THE WEEK AHEAD

 

The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 29th of October through the November 2nd is full of critical releases and events. Attached below is a snapshot of some (though far from all) of the headline numbers that we will be focused on.

THE WEEK AHEAD - Week


Trade Of The Day: JPM

Today we bought JP Morgan (JPM) at $41.41 a share at 3:27 PM EDT in our Real Time Alerts. The company put up a solid quarter and Hedgeye Financials Sector Head Josh Steiner wants to be net long financials if Romney momentum continues to build. A Romney win would be a positive for banks and other financial institutions as he plans on toning down regulation. 

 

Trade Of The Day: JPM - image001


GDP Report: Accelerating The Recession

Takeaway: Growth and earnings are slowing. The current recession is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Net-net, the 3Q12 GDP report suggests weak imports may be leading a sequential slowdown in both “C” and “I”  in the upcoming quarter(s). Additionally, an demonstrable and unsustainable acceleration  in “G” was all that stood in the way of a -35% deceleration to +0.9% QoQ SAAR, allowing the headline figure to come in at +2% QoQ SAAR. This means that growth is trending along a +0.9% QoQ SAAR run rate and potentially headed lower if “C” and “I” exhibits signs of slowing.

 

 

GDP Report: Accelerating The Recession  - GDPGrowthpic

 

 

Unfortunately, dual slowing of “C” and “I” is indeed a probable scenario, given the uncertainty surrounding the election, fiscal cliff and debt ceiling breach. Moreover, each catalyst may actually be contributing to a noteworthy acceleration in corporate cost-cutting initiatives (layoffs?), as highlighted on 3Q earnings calls. Recessions happen when baseline GROWTH is weak, the corporate earnings cycle slows and companies start trying to cut their way into meeting peak-cycle, peak-margin forward EPS estimates. In this respect, 4Q12 is very much like its 2007 counterpart.

 

Our updated US GIP model is included in the chart above.

 


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